Stumbling Blocks to Success: Personal Decisions

Today I’m going to talk about a sensitive subject: the way decisions you make in your personal life affect the success you can have in your job search. I’m not going to tell you that your decisions are “wrong” or “bad,” I’m just going to try to point out two types of decisions that can limit opportunities for success and suggest ways that you might want to think them through.

“I don’t want to move away from my family/parents.”

There are a lot of reasons why people might want to stay close to home. For one thing, it provides a safety net: a place to live until you get settled into your first job or until you get a job that pays enough for you to live on your own. But there are two different interpretations of this “decision.” One is that you actually want to live with your parents.

As Shannon McNay, writing for, tells us, there are a lot of really good reasons to live with your parents, and the most important one is that it will allow you to save some money and, perhaps, keep you from recklessly running up even more debt. (If you do choose this route, I would suggest it would be wise to offer to contribute to household expenses. It helps keep the peace, and it is the way that a responsible adult should act.)

But the other aspect to this is that some people don’t want to move away. They may not have a problem with living in an apartment nearby, but they aren’t interested in moving to another city or state. This aspect of the “stay at home” decision could be due to a lack of confidence in your ability to make it on your own. Living alone for the first time can be frightening, but you learn a lot of important lessons about yourself by facing the situations that engender those fears. I remember well the first time I was truly on my own, moving from New York to California where I didn’t know a single person within 1200 miles of my new home. That first weekend, I was terrified: How would I fill the 64 hours between the end of work on Friday and the beginning of work on Monday? But over time I made friends (both at work and by joining some civic organizations), found my way around town, and developed a much better sense of who I was and what was important to me by learning to be alone (which is not the same as being lonely). I truly believe that you can’t live happily with another person until you learn to live happily with yourself: learn what you want your home to be like, how you want to spend your time and your money, who you want to socialize with, and so forth.

So if you’ve decided that you want to stay “home,” I just ask that you think about your reasoning. If it’s financial, and if your parents are okay with it, then it makes sense and seems like a good idea. If you’re staying home because you’re afraid to be on your own, give it some thought and create a plan that will allow you to break away and become an independent adult.

“I may as well wait until my boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse finds a job and then look in the same city.”

There are situations where this makes sense. If your significant other is more likely to find a job easily than you are, or is likely to earn a higher starting salary than you are, then it may make sense to follow his or her lead. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to stay on top of the places where your partner is applying and look for jobs at the same time. Why wait until a decision is made and then spend the first few months in the new city looking for a job? Wouldn’t it be better if you could both start at the same time?

I realize this may not work out, and if you find a job before your partner, you’ll have to have a serious conversation about whether you accept the job and your partner confines his or her search to the same city or whether you turn down the job and look at it as a way you’ve improved your interviewing skills. But if you’re going to have a harder time finding a job, maybe it makes sense for you to try to get something and have your partner follow your lead.

You also need to give some serious thought to whether this is a long-term relationship. If you’re married, work it out together. If you’ve only recently started dating, you may want to try maintaining the relationship long distance for a while to see if it works out. I’ve seen studies saying that a couple in a good relationship can handle being apart for up to two years. That gives you time to see where both the relationship and your careers are going.

Either of these decisions can have a huge affect on your ability to get that first (or next) good job in your field. And don’t forget that job seekers are like houses for sale. If they sit too long before they get snatched up, prospective buyers/employers (rightly) have good reason to wonder why they’ve attracted so little attention.